Family Matters

Family Matters

Family Matters

What has changed in our societies over the past twenty years?
It may be easier to approach this question from the other end of
the spectrum: ‘what hasn’t?’

"What worries New Zealanders" a survey commissioned
by Tower/TNS, has found a significant change in the number of
people who worry frequently about family. In 2003 the incidence
rose by 12 percent to 39 percent. The survey found that 49
percent of young New Zealanders worry frequently about their
families. Also 39 percent of working mothers are definitely
worried about the 'stay at home mum' becoming a thing of the
past. Tower noted that it is young women who have increasing
concerns.(1).

What used to be considered ‘normal’ is incredibly
now needing to be redefined. The New Zealand parliament is
attempting to ‘refine the meaning of family’. Not a
moment too soon given the general downbeat state of our society,
and the numerous research documents which clearly correlate the
negativity with breakdown at a family level. "The present
generation of teenagers will become the fattest, sickest and
least fertile in history doctors warn." (2). "Their eating,
drinking, sexual, drug taking and smoking habits are creating a
public health times bomb... teenagers behaviour posed an
extraordinary threat to an entire generation."

Equality of outcomes – the myth! Common sense – the other myth!

We know that all human beings are of equal value in terms of
intrinsic worth. Yet the same cannot be said of the equitable
results or outcomes of people’s lives. Some people succeed
and some people simply ‘fail’! Oh – we’re
not supposed to use that word in today’s world, apparently
it carries a negative connotation... Succeeding or failing at
what? Reaching a useful personal outcome in life – and
making a useful contribution back into society. And no - this is
not ‘a one size fits all situation’ where success is
defined as looking like this (doctors lawyers and dentists), and
then everybody sets out to measure against it. That’s an
alternative structure to what I am talking about – the
class system.

What used to be taught at a family and community level was
blunt but absolutely true. Messages like: life is short –
so invest your time and energy wisely; work hard, learn as much
as you can; life will sometimes seem unfair – get over it
and move on; nothing worth having comes for free; pain before
gain; delaying gratification will bring longer term results;
respect authority (parents, teacher, policeman); look after your
siblings.... the list goes on. What used to be common sense, is
no more!

I speak every week in ‘non-church’ situations. I
like to remind the participants that they are ‘fearfully
and wonderfully made.’ For many people, such a concept hits
them like a ton of bricks... ‘Me – fearfully and
wonderfully made?’ There is a connotation of purpose in
this statement, a concept long forgotten in a world which has
walked away from knowing who are. Our ‘Identity’ as
humans left us the day we said "we are self made, we are the
masters of our own destiny – there is no God". Now we live
with a new identity – the survival of the fittest.

So what does this mean in the context of family? The numerous
symptoms of our society dilemmas present complex issues to be
discussed. The bottom line however, is not complex. It is a
spiritual problem requiring a spiritual solution. For those
fathers reading this article, please locate and read the book of
Proverbs (Holy Bible) and begin to digest some of the gems
contained in the book of ‘not so common sense’.

(1). See issue No. One Hundred and Two18 MARCH 2004
realissues@maxim.org.nz
(2). See NZ Herald Martin Johnson "Teen health timebomb
ticking" 10.12.03

Equitable outcomes in education - a grand deception?

The Human Rights Commission (HRC) has made it clear that
education should encourage diversity in all areas - except
achievement. The HRC discussion document, The Right to Education
states that education must promote "equitable achievement
outcomes" for all learners. Submissions on this document closed
this week and will form part of the New Zealand Action Plan for
Human Rights to be finalised later this year.

The focus on equitable outcomes rather than equitable
opportunities is problematic. What is an equitable outcome? Does
it mean that all children must achieve to the same level?
Children have different abilities, strengths and gifts and will
not progress at exactly the same time and in the same way. In
addition, the focus on equitable outcomes may create artificial
and undesirable circumstances; for example, the lowering of
standards so that all students achieve to the same level.

This is a grand deception. Sooner or later reality will hit
and students will be judged on their achievement. This will occur
at university, in other tertiary training, or in the
workforce.

The focus must be on providing all children with opportunities
and encouraging them to achieve to the very best of their
abilities, even if this means they achieve differently from their
peers.